GUY RAZ, HOST:
It's the TED Radio Hour, from NPR. I'm Guy Raz. And on our show today, believers and doubters - why some of us believe, and some of us don't.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED TELEPHONE OPERATOR: Dr. Graham on 9-1.
THE REV. BILLY GRAHAM: Mr. President?
PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON: Hello, Billy. How are you, my friend?
GRAHAM: Well, God bless you. I was telling Bill that last night, I couldn't sleep. And I got on my knees and prayed for you that the Lord would just give you strength.
JOHNSON: I told my sweet wife last night - we got mental telepathy - I said, if I didn't think I'd embarrass him, I'd say please, dear Lord, I need you more than I ever did in my life. I got the Russians on one side of me taking air. The Chinese are dropping bombs around, contaminating the atmosphere. And the...
RAZ: This is a recording from Oct. 20, 1964, 5 o'clock at night. And like the three presidents before him and the eight after him, Lyndon Johnson used to call up Billy Graham, the evangelical preacher, whenever he needed some spiritual guidance.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JOHNSON: Come down here Saturday evening and have dinner with us. And let's have a quiet visit, and maybe have a little service Sunday morning in the White House itself.
GRAHAM: Well, I'll be very happy to. I told Bill that my wife couldn't come because...
RAZ: Now, the thing about those conversations was that they were about a truth - a truth that they shared. But why? Why did they believe it? And why do billions of people believe in something greater than themselves? Well, that's what we're going to explore on the show today with TED speakers who, in some way or another, are all seeking their own truth.
As for Billy Graham, he's 95 years old now, and he's not really able to do interviews. So we called up his daughter - her name is Anne Graham Lotz - and we asked her to help guide us through Billy's TED Talk. Thanks for stepping in on his behalf, Anne.
ANNE GRAHAM LOTZ: You know, I feel very honored that you would ask me.
RAZ: How's he doing, by the way? How's your dad doing?
LOTZ: He's doing real well. In fact, I called him, Guy, to just let him know that I was doing this on his behalf. And actually, I was calling to ask him to pray for me, you know.
RAZ: When Billy Graham spoke at TED in 1998, he knew he wasn't a typical guest at the conference.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
GRAHAM: As a clergymen, you can imagine how out of place I feel. I feel like a fish out of water. And some of you may be wondering why they have a speaker from the field of religion.
RAZ: It's interesting 'cause when he starts his talk, it's almost like he's acknowledging kind of the awkwardness of - like, a Billy Graham speaking to a group of scientists and engineers and - many of them who just - I don't know, probably don't have a whole lot of time for faith.
LOTZ: And I thought it was a brilliant way to get into it because he was feeling awkward, but I think he knew that they would be feeling awkward, too.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
GRAHAM: But some years ago, I was on an elevator in Philadelphia, coming down at a hotel. And on that elevator, a man said, I hear Billy Graham is staying in this hotel. And another man looked in my direction and said, yes, there he is. He's on this elevator with us. And this man looked me up and down for about 10 seconds, and he said, my, what an anticlimax.
GRAHAM: I hope that you won't feel that these few moments with me is not a - is an anticlimax. After all this tremendous...
RAZ: It's such a disarming moment. Was he there to talk about belief or faith, or both? Or is there a difference?
LOTZ: I think there's a difference that's worth mentioning. I believe that belief is more an intellectual assent to the truth. Or if you think of a belief system, it would be values or traditions or principles that you would live your life by. Faith is more of a heart issue. So a lot of people can believe in God, for instance, and not that many people have real faith in God. I'll quote Jesus in one instance, which is very interesting because he said, even the demons in Hell believe in him. So they believed in Jesus. They knew he was the son of God, the Messiah, but they had no faith.
RAZ: So for Anne, for her dad, belief is easy, but faith - faith is a feeling. It's something you can't easily explain. And that's what Billy Graham tried to convey in his TED Talk.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
GRAHAM: You see, the Bible teaches that we're more than a body and a mind. We are a soul. And there's something inside of us that is beyond our understanding. That's the part of us that yearns for God, or something more. I find young people all over the world are searching for something. They don't know what it is. I speak at many universities. And I have many questions-and-answer periods. And whether it's Cambridge or Harvard or Oxford - I've spoken at all those universities. I'm going to Harvard in about two months from now, to give a lecture. And I'll be asked the same questions that I was asked the last few times I've been there. Where did I come from? Where am I going? What's life all about? Why am I here?
Even if you have no religious belief, there are times when you wonder that there's something else. Thomas Edison also said, when you see everything that happens in the world of science and in the working of the universe, you cannot deny that there's a captain on the bridge. I've stood at the deathbed of several famous people whom you would know. I've talked to them. I've seen them in those agonizing moments when they were scared to death. And yet a few years earlier, death never crossed their mind. I talked to a woman this past week whose father is a famous doctor. She said he never thought of God, never talked about God, didn't believe in God. He was an atheist. But she said as he came to die, he sat up in the side of the bed one day, and he asked the nurse if he could see the chaplain. And he said for the first time in his life, he thought about the inevitable - and about God. Was there a God?
RAZ: So Anne, if - as your father pointed out, right? - that there were doubters, like Edison, who wondered, you know, whether their doubts are right - I mean, do you think he ever doubted his own belief sometimes?
LOTZ: I couldn't answer that for him, but I've never heard him express that. In fact, when he began his preaching, I think he was with some of his friends out in California. And his friends were discussing the Bible. And they were sitting there deciding that this part was true and that part was true. And daddy said he got quieter and quieter. And he said his spirit was greatly troubled. And he picked up his Bible, and he left that circle of friends, and he went out into the woods.
And he put his Bible down and he told God that from that moment forward, he would believe that the Bible was true because it was God's word. And God is a gentleman. He doesn't lie. And he came back out of the wods to his friends and he was - his preaching was different. His ministry, you know, is hallmarked by that phrase "the Bible says." The Bible says. The Bible says. And the friends in that circle, some of them - their lives self-destructed. Their belief system just crumbled. But my father's has continued because he believes something that was true. He put his faith in it, and it's never let him down.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
GRAHAM: A few years ago, a university student asked me: What is the greatest surprise in your life? And I said, the greatest surprise in my life is the brevity of life. It passes so fast. How should one live in order not to feel regret when one is dying? Blaise Pascal asked exactly that question in 17th century France. Pascal has been called the architect of modern civilization. He is viewed by many as the founder of the probability theory, and a creator of the first model of a computer. On Nov. 23rd, 1654, Pascal had a profound religious experience. He wrote in his journal these words: I submit myself absolutely to Jesus Christ, my redeemer.
For Pascal, scientific knowledge paled beside the knowledge of God. He was ready to face him when he died at the age of 39. King David lived to be 70 - a long time in his era. Yet he, too, had to face death, and he wrote these words: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
When I was 17 years of age - I was born and reared on a farm in North Carolina. I milked cows every morning; and had to milk the same cows every evening, when I came home from school. I didn't make good grades in high school. I didn't make them in college until something happened in my heart. One day, I was face to face with Christ. He said: I'm the way, the truth and the light. Can you imagine that? I am the truth; I am the embodiment of all truth. He was a liar. Or he was insane. Or he was what he claimed to be. Which was he? I had to make that decision. I couldn't prove it. I couldn't take it to a laboratory and experiment with it. But by faith, I said, I believe him. And he came into my heart, and changed my life. And now, I'm ready when I hear that call, to go into the presence of God. Thank you, and God bless all of you.
RAZ: It's really interesting. The moment when he came face to face with Christ and he said, he's either insane, he's a liar, or he's telling the truth. I mean, how did he know? What tells you? What told him that there's something to believe?
LOTZ: Well, you know, for Daddy, he was listening to a little country preacher. And there was something in Daddy that sparked. I don't know how to explain it. And he made the transition from believing to faith. And he said he couldn't explain it to you after that. And he didn't know what had happened, but he knew something had happened. And he knew he was different.
RAZ: Anne Graham Lotz writes and preaches about her faith. Her dad, Billy Graham's, TED Talk from 1998 is at TED.com. In a moment, believing without faith. I'm Guy Raz, and you're listening to the TED Radio Hour from NPR.
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